Trip Report
An Afternoon Epic on Hallet's
Monday November 11, 2013 12:08am
I originally posted this to the Sketch-aneering thread, http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/40308/Sketch-aneering . It proceeded---I hope not from the weight of this tale---to sink like a rock. So I thought I'd give it one more chance in the TR format.



It looked plenty solid, but a little thump just in case. Whacking the chockstone with the heel of my hand was a reflexive, almost mindless gesture, a routine test of the general solidity of an obstacle blocking my path. Grumblecrunch! The block, the size of a very large microwave oven, immediately dropped into my lap. Into my lap, because I was back-and-foot chimneying just below the chockstone, and so my lap was the next and only possible resting place once the boulder had parted company with the chimney walls.

My situation was less than ideal. Who puts in any pro for a back-and-foot chimney? I was twenty or so feet directly above my belayer, Barbara Thacher, with nothing in, on what had been a moderate pitch of the Jackson-Johnson Route on Hallet's Peak in RMNP. An enormous effort, fueled by an extreme adrenaline surge, had prevented me from falling out of the chimney with the block, but now I was the subject of a lap dance from a few hundred pounds of Rocky Mountain granite. In the midst of the ensuing struggle, my evil brain, which surely had better things to attend to, saw fit to mock my predicament with the lullaby "Rock-a-bye Baby," a tune which was quickly banished to the unconscious sewer of irony from which it had sprung unbidden.

Really, this was no damn joke. I was losing the battle of restraining that rock. Barbara was tied in short directly underneath and had no chance of surviving when---not if---I eventually couldn't hold out any longer. Displaying all the calm expected from heroes in dire straits, I shrieked hysterically for her to untie from the anchor and traverse out of the fall line. She fumbled with nicely tightened clove hitches as the block, in spite of every effort I could muster, oozed slowly out of my lap.

The knots weren't the only problem. The ledge gods had not smiled on us. Other than the very small platform on which she was standing, the rock to either side was slabby and sloping, without positive hand- or footholds. Making haste slowly, interminably slowly from my perspective but recklessly fast from hers, Barbara teetered right, climbing solo, on 5.7ish friction.

And so it was that we found ourselves in full mountain tourist mode, me fighting a losing battle with a lethal projectile, her balancing insecurely on slopers, and the climbing rope stretched between us without a single anchor of any type between us. How the hell would they explain this when they found us at the bottom?

The block was ready to take flight. I was terrified that it would catch the rope and take us down with it, but I was no longer in control of the situation. Over it went, annihilating the ledge where Barbara had been standing, and then plunging into the valley below, shattering into pieces, sending up dust clouds of pulverized rock, and generally putting on a textbook display of the effects of a large-scale release of potential energy.

Thank god there was no one anywhere below. (You rarely met another party on the North Face of Hallets in those days). The smell of broken rock wafted up, but everything was silent, except for the distant rattle of a few shards still rolling down the boulder field below. Nature had already turned its attention elsewhere, perhaps plotting some new catastrophe, or maybe just working out the details of the next few eons of erosion. Whatever the case, we were left alone, in silence, perched on the precipice, joined to each other by a rope but otherwise attached only by our vivid interest in not cashing in our own potential energy stores.

Barbara regained what was left of the ledge. The anchor had somehow been spared, so she clipped back in. Compact clouds frolicked in the blue Colorado sky, showing no signs of yielding to the pervasive afternoon thunderstorms. The recent struggle seemed, already, like a dream. We had come to climb. And so we did, making our way to the top up for several difficult but uneventful pitches, pulling into the sunshine on the warm and suddenly level summit plateau.

  Trip Report Views: 1,279
rgold
About the Author
rgold is a climber from Poughkeepsie, NY.

Comments
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mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Nov 11, 2013 - 12:15am PT
"the unconscious sewer of irony"

It never ceases to amaze that we keep coming back for more of the same.

McHale's Navy

Trad climber
From Panorama City, CA
  Nov 11, 2013 - 12:38am PT
It's easy to get pissed off at crap like that! It's probably the only time you've ever felt pregnant with terror.

dfinnecy

Social climber
'stralia
  Nov 11, 2013 - 12:43am PT
Great writing. I can feel the dilation of time, the urgent desperation, and the melancholy resolution. Beer must have been good after that one.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Nov 11, 2013 - 05:58am PT
Great writing
"joined to each other by a rope but otherwise attached only by our vivid interest in not cashing in our own potential energy stores."

^^^^^
That is a cool line!!!!
Randisi

climber
  Nov 11, 2013 - 07:08am PT
Or cashing out...
TWP

Trad climber
Mancos, CO
  Nov 11, 2013 - 09:18am PT
Wowk! So close to checking out, then onward through the fog of the climb and the rest of your life. Was that your closest call while climbing? Did any other close calls "come this close?" Write those up as well.
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Nov 11, 2013 - 09:38am PT

WOW!
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
  Nov 11, 2013 - 09:41am PT
Thanks Rich!
Gripping vignette on how quickly a mundane climbing situation can turn deadly.

How the hell would they explain this when they found us at the bottom?

You could be sure that Accidents in NA Mountaineering would have pointed out the obvious multiple errors, including untying and then falling, concluding with the obligatory, "No Hard Hat."
philo

Trad climber
Is that the light at the end of the tunnel or a tr
  Nov 11, 2013 - 10:21am PT
Great story RGold.
LOL RickA.
Bad Climber

climber
  Nov 11, 2013 - 10:24am PT
Thanks for reposting this, rgold. I missed it first time around.

Fantastical! Scary shyte fo' shiz.

BAd
kaholatingtong

Trad climber
Nevada City
  Nov 11, 2013 - 10:29am PT
wow. quite a day.
Michael Kennedy

Social climber
Carbondale, Colorado
  Nov 11, 2013 - 10:48am PT
Great story, RIch. Too many good lines to quote just one I'd have to just use the whole piece!
MH2

climber
  Nov 11, 2013 - 11:00am PT
Holey Moley.
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
  Nov 11, 2013 - 07:27pm PT
WOW! A GNEISS & GRANITIC TALE! Glad you survived those looooong moments of slow-motion rock-a-babying the rock.
RyanD

climber
Squamish
  Nov 11, 2013 - 11:37am PT
Holey Moley.

yep
Whitehorse Jeff

Trad climber
Fairfield, CT
  Nov 11, 2013 - 11:46am PT
Even better than your usual great writing, Rich! It sure is a nice when the gods decide it just wasn't our time! Glad for you and all of us that the outcome was so positive.
steveA

Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
  Nov 11, 2013 - 11:56am PT
Great story Rich.

Brought back memories of an almost identical incident BITD with your old friend Kevin Bein, up on Cathedral Ledge. He had no place to move, in a hanging belay, and I had a 100 lb. rock in my lap, while hanging on rurps.

I just missed him, as I pitched the rock off. We went down after that epic.
ydpl8s

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
  Nov 11, 2013 - 12:28pm PT
Ahhhhh...the Jackson - where the hell are we? - Johnson route. Been somewhere there, thankfully didn't do that (just got hopelessly lost).
Gal

Trad climber
going big air to fakie
  Nov 11, 2013 - 12:36pm PT
Great write-up, so scary, thanks for sharing.
Chugach

Trad climber
Vermont
  Nov 11, 2013 - 02:38pm PT
Great writing. Gripping narrative. Stunning over-exaggeration of climbing's most overused term - EPIC. I'm trying to imagine how a situation can be Epic without broken bones, starvation or burial.

labrat

Trad climber
Auburn, CA
  Nov 11, 2013 - 02:59pm PT
Thank you!
Alexey

climber
San Jose, CA
  Nov 11, 2013 - 03:23pm PT
thanks for the story, it is like nightmare..
phylp

Trad climber
Upland, CA
  Nov 11, 2013 - 07:25pm PT
So glad you resurrected this! Scary is an understatement!
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Nov 12, 2013 - 01:17am PT
Very well written! Isn't an epic on Hallet de rigueur?
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Author's Reply  Nov 12, 2013 - 01:43am PT
You could be sure that Accidents in NA Mountaineering would have pointed out the obvious multiple errors, including untying and then falling, concluding with the obligatory, "No Hard Hat."

I imagine that "exceeding lap load standards" would have been cited as one of the contributing causes, together with "inappropriate use of destructive testing methods" and the observation that falling and then untying is typically associated with better outcomes than untying and then falling.
Dr.Sprock

Boulder climber
I'm James Brown, Bi-atch!
  Nov 12, 2013 - 04:59am PT
shouldn't trundle while on lead,


nice job keeping your cool, i mean holy crap batman!

i had a heavy set girl sit in my lap in a Tijuana bar one time,

she was a lil softer, but my right knee started shakin, because she ate too much bacon, luckily not mine, i wasn't that drunk.....yet,
dkny

Trad climber
Irvine, CA
  Nov 12, 2013 - 11:06am PT
Amazing quick thinking! Thanks for the TR.
Blakey

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
  Nov 12, 2013 - 11:25am PT
Whoa,

Bump for climbing content.

Steve
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Nov 12, 2013 - 11:50am PT
Wow.....that was AWESOME!! So glad you lived to tell the tale Rich.


I've been in many an epic, but can't think of one right now because my mind is flooded with yours.

Freekin' love this line:
Displaying all the calm expected from heroes in dire straits, I shrieked hysterically for her to untie from the anchor and traverse out of the fall line.





HALLETT!! (For anyone that wants to give me sh#t for misspelling, it has been called Hallet's by generations of climbers, but the correct name is indeed Hallett, so there....HA!!)
Credit: survival






Credit: survival
LAhiker

Social climber
Los Angeles
  Nov 12, 2013 - 12:28pm PT
Vivid, terrifying, and well-written.
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